One night. Four legends. History about to be made. A directing debut effort from Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk, Ray) that showcases energetic character building in its otherwise simple setting.
One Night in Miami tells the ‘relatively’ true story of an historic night in Miami on the 25th of February, 1964. Whilst that date may not be instantly recognised by most, boxing fans will remember it as the day Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) beat Sonny Liston to become world heavyweight champion.
Regina King’s political drama takes us to that fight, but mainly beyond that, as Ali is joined by his friends Malcom X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke in an evening of celebration. The four men discuss the hardships they’ve gone through, argue their political and religious values, and share their successes, as each man continues to grow in their respective fields.
All focus falls on Eli Goree (Muhammad Ali), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcom X), Leslie Odom Jr. (Sam Cooke) and Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown). Each man greatly embodies their famous counterpart and fall assuredly into their larger than life personas. Especially Eli Goree and Kingsley Ben-Adir, who have perhaps the hardest of roles to take on.
No one really knows what was said in the hotel room in which they stayed, and what serves as legitimacy. This fictionalised adaptation of a play by Kemp Powers, gives us a potential insight that helped pave the way in history for each of these men.
Regina King’s predominantly single location drama, does well to make a political statement, even if we have seen and heard it before. She gets the best out of the actors playing these powerful, politically charged men and the best decision it makes is we don’t spend a single scene without them.
The play manages to create this atmosphere in a respectable ninety minutes, whereas King’s direction hits almost the two hour mark, which asks the question, what really needed to be added?
Some of the conversations, debates and arguments also go beyond their breaking point and where this is the film’s primary focus, it sadly loses a lot of its energy.
With Regina King’s unnoticeable inexperience in the director’s seat and four strong central performances that could earn each and any of its leads an Oscar nomination, One Night in Miami is a welcoming treat that gives you that front row seat feeling, of watching history being made in front of our very eyes.
The runtime is drawn out rather unfavourably given the simplicity of its narrative. The situations also appear to be increased for added dramatic effect. But this film still drives its political importance to a wholesome finale. As Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ serenades us, all we can be left thinking is how we’d love to have been there to witness it all ourselves.